Age Ain't Nothing but a Number (song)

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"Age Ain't Nothing but a Number"
Aaliyah - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number.jpg
Single by Aaliyah
from the album Age Ain't Nothing but a Number
B-side"I'm Down" "The Thing I Like"
ReleasedDecember 6, 1994 (US CS)
December 20, 1994 (US CD)
February 5, 1995 (UK CD)
Format
Recorded1993; Chicago Recording Company
(Chicago, Illinois)
Genre
Length4:13
Label
Songwriter(s)R. Kelly
Producer(s)R. Kelly
Aaliyah singles chronology
"At Your Best (You Are Love)"
(1994)
"Age Ain't Nothing but a Number"
(1994)
"Down with the Clique"
(1995)

"Age Ain't Nothing but a Number" is a song by American singer Aaliyah from her debut studio album of the same name (1994). The song was written and produced by R. Kelly and lyrically the song is about a young girl wanting to date an older man. Containing a lyrical interpolation from the song "What You Won't Do For Love by Bobby Caldwell[1] the "soulful" ballad opens with a guitar-piano interplay, with Aaliyah's spoken voice noting her daily diary entry. Critically the song was panned by many critics because of the songs controversial message about dating someone older.

Blackground and Jive released "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number" as the third single (and final single in the United States) from the album on December 6, 1994. Commercially the song performed poorly on the US Billboard Hot 100 peaking at number 75 on the chart. The song became Aaliyah's first single not to top the charts with her first two singles peaking within the top 10. On the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart the song fared better peaking within the top 40 at number 5 on the week ending on December 24, 1994. Internationally the song performed moderately well peaking within the top 40 of the UK Official chart at number 32. The song experienced even greater success on the UK's Dance and R&B charts peaking within the top 20 at number 19 and 6 respectively.

The song first faced controversy after its release when a marriage certificate emerged stating that a 15-year-old Aaliyah had married a 27-year-old R. Kelly. In 1997 the song was yet again surrounded with controversy when both Aaliyah and R.Kelly were served with a lawsuit from music publisher Windswept Pacific. The music publishing company claimed that the duo illegally copied Bobby Caldwell's song "What You Won't Do For Love".

Composition and lyrical interpretation[edit]

"Age Ain't Nothing but a Number" has been described as a "soulful ballad" with Aaliyah "crooning of longing for an older lover".[2] The song opens with "Aaliyah's spoken voice noting her daily diary entry" and it is "coupled with a delicate guitar-piano interplay that echoes the urgency of her performance".[3] It also features a sample from Bobby Caldwell's 1978 song "What You Won't Do For Love".[4] Tonya Pendleton from The Washington Post described the song as a "seductive entreaty to an older lover to forget their age difference and allow their relationship to ripen".[3]

Chart performance[edit]

"Age Ain't Nothing but a Number" was the third single released and it was the least successful single from the album; It also was the last single to be released in the US. It reached its peak at number seventy-five on the Hot 100 chart on February 25, 1995.[5] The song peaked within the top 40 at number 35 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs charts on December 24, 1994. On the Rhythmic charts the song also peaked within the top 40 at number 36 on February 18,1995.[6][7] In the UK the single fared better on the charts peaking within the top 40 at number 32 on the official charts.[8] On March 5, 1995 the song peaked within the top 20 at number 19 on the UK Official Dance singles charts.[9] On the official UK R&B charts the song peaked within the top 10 and 6 on March 5, 1995.[10]

Critical reception[edit]

Damien Scott from Complex said that the song is a "Head head nod-inducing track with a riding bass line that has a 15-year-old Aaliyah reprising Bobby Caldwell (“I got a thing for you, and I won't let go.”) to assert her assurance about her forbidden love.". He also felt that the song was an important part of Aaliyah's career and that it shouldn't be forgotten.[1] When discussing the lyrical content of the song Kenneth Pathridge from Billboard said "She sings it not like a love-struck teenager but rather a poised young woman mature enough to handle a relationship with an older man".[11]

Music video[edit]

The music video was directed by Millicent Shelton and filmed in Detroit, Michigan in late 1994 and released in early 1995. Mainly shot in black-and-white, it features cameo appearances by rappers Proof and Bizarre from D12 and Aaliyah's brother, Rashad Haughton.[4]

Reception[edit]

The music video for "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number" made its television debut on the BET network during the week ending on November 27, 1994.[12] Meanwhile, two Months later the video made its television debut on the MTV network during the week ending on January 8, 1995.[13]

Live performances[edit]

On January 28, 1995 Aaliyah performed Age Ain't Nothing but a Number on the Nickelodeon sketch comedy show All That[14] Uproxx included Aaliyah's All That performance on their "5 Musical Performances From Nickelodeon's ‘All That’ You Didn't Realize Were Completely Inappropriate" list.[15] While commenting on the performance Dejen Isaac from Uproxx said ,"They changed the most blatant portion a bit (tonight we’re gonna, go “around” the way), but Nickelodeon pretty much aired a song about a teen who wants to bang an older gentleman. That doesn't even take into account that the song was written and produced by R. Kelly, who allegedly tried to marry Aaliyah when she was 16. It's just kinda icky all around".[15] MTV ranked Aaliyah's "All That" performance at number 4 on their "17 'All That' Musical Moments That Will Still Blow Ya Mind list.[16] Rap-Up included the performance on their "Aaliyah's 10 Greatest Live Performances" List.[17] The publication praised the performance saying ,"Aaliyah allowed none of the cheesiness of Nickelodeon's sketch comedy series to rub off on her when she appeared on the first season in 1994. Singing her debut album's title track, she did so with all the maturity that its lyrics so suspiciously detailed".[17]

Controversy[edit]

In May 1997 Music publisher Windswept Pacific filed a lawsuit against Aaliyah with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.[18] The Music publisher claimed she illegally copied Bobby Caldwell's 1978 song "What You Won't Do For Love".[18] According to Windswept "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number" bears a striking resemblance to Caldwell's song.[18] "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number" is Aaliyah's most controversial song within her discography due to its lyrical content about dating someone older.[2] The lyrical content of the song raised eyebrows because the song was written and produced by R.Kelly.[4] After the release of the song a marriage certificate emerged stating that a fifteen year old Aaliyah and a twenty seven year old R.Kelly were married.[2]

Legacy[edit]

"Age Ain't Nothing but a Number" was included on USA Today's "20 politically incorrect songs that'd be wildly controversial today" list.[19] According to Maeve McDermott and Patrick Ryan from USA Today "No disrespect to the late Princess of R&B, whose hypnotic vocals and idiosyncratic style remain timeless. But it's hard not to feel at least mildly uncomfortable listening to this song in retrospect: At the time she recorded it, a then-14-year-old Aaliyah was dating — and would soon illegally marry — her mentor/producer R. Kelly, who was 27."[19] Also the song was included on publication KQED's "The Most Creepily Problematic Sexy Songs of the 1990s" list.[20] In 2003 rap group Outkast sampled the song on their song “Pink & Blue”, which is featured on their fifth studio album "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below". For the song " the rapper scratches Aaliyah's vocals to begin this melodic track and for the duration enlists Timmy Thomas’ instrumental to ride out the song."[21]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1994–95) Peak
position
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[22] 78
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[23] 32
UK Dance (Official Charts Company)[24] 19
UK R&B (Official Charts Company)[25] 6
US Billboard Hot 100[26] 75
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[27] 35
US Rhythmic (Billboard)[28] 36

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The 25 Best Aaliyah Songs". Complex. May 19, 2016. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "10 Best Songs From Aaliyah Songs". The Boombox. Retrieved June 30, 2018.
  3. ^ a b ""Age Ain't Nothin' but a Number"". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Top 10 Aaliyah Songs". Dotdash. Retrieved June 30, 2018.
  5. ^ "HOT 100 chart". Billboard. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  6. ^ "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  7. ^ "Rhythmic Songs". Billboard. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  8. ^ "Aaliyah". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  9. ^ "Official Dance Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  10. ^ "Official R&B Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  11. ^ "Aaliyah, 'Age Ain't Nothing But A Number' at 20: Classic Track-by-Track Review". Billboard. Retrieved December 7, 2018.
  12. ^ "Video Monitor". Billboard. December 10, 1994. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  13. ^ "Video Monitor". Billboard. January 21, 1995. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  14. ^ "Season 1, Episode 6 All That". TV Guide. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
  15. ^ a b "5 Musical Performances From Nickelodeon's 'All That' You Didn't Realize Were Completely Inappropriate". Uproxx. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
  16. ^ "17 ALL THAT' MUSICAL MOMENTS THAT WILL STILL BLOW YA MIND". MTV. Retrieved December 21, 2018.
  17. ^ a b "AALIYAH'S 10 GREATEST LIVE PERFORMANCES". Rap-Up. Retrieved December 21, 2018.
  18. ^ a b c "AALIYAH, R. KELLY NAMED IN COPYRIGHT LAWSUIT". MTV News. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  19. ^ a b "20 politically incorrect songs that'd be wildly controversial today". USA Today. April 12, 2018. Retrieved December 21, 2018.
  20. ^ "The Most Creepily Problematic Sexy Songs of the 1990s". KQED. April 12, 2018. Retrieved December 21, 2018.
  21. ^ "5 Samples That Added To The Genius of OutKast's 'Speakerboxxx/The Love Below' Album". Vibe. September 24, 2013. Retrieved December 21, 2018.
  22. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 1, 2017.
  23. ^ "Aaliyah: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  24. ^ "Official Dance Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  25. ^ "Official R&B Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 28, 2017.
  26. ^ "Aaliyah Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  27. ^ "Aaliyah Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  28. ^ "Aaliyah Chart History (Rhythmic)". Billboard. Retrieved November 29, 2017.

External links[edit]